wayne&wax

linkthink re: hip-hop, reggae, the US, jamaica, and anything else wayne wants to wax on

10.07.2006

ni chicha ni limonada



in pursuing the chacalonero thread further, i've been in conversation with joshua tucker, an ethnomusicologist at UT-austin (and the guy previously in my shoes), who knows a thing or two about music in peru.

clearing up some of my questions about sr. chacalon jr. -- that link, btw, dates "perreo chacalonero" to at least feb/05! -- as well as about chicha more generally (the music, that is), joshua has helped me to hear the phenomenon in better context:
First, I can't help but notice that the song itself is remarkably similar in form and tone to "Mesa que mas aplauda," which was huge in Peru a couple of years ago, when it was huge all over Latin America. (If you don't know it, it's here. And I'm sure the story behind it's floating around on the internet as well.) Rooted in chicha sounds instead of merengue, but still, the procedure, such as it is, seems to be the same, and the themes of over-the-top sexuality fit pretty well.

As for the whole Chacalon link, I can't help but think that the popularity of this Chacalon Jr. (who I have never otherwise heard of) has surged since the (really good) telenovela about his father aired last year. I can't help but wonder of he was making chicha music until pretty recently, when reggaeton arrived in Peru (in c. 2003-4), and that any success he's got is piggybacking on his ability to market himself in his father's name.

Which is interesting, because this thing, and the whole reggaeton phenomenon in Peru generally, fits very obviously and perfectly with chicha's earlier position. Despite the whole academic fuss over chicha being a kind of hybrid fusion of the Andes and the international sphere, it's important to remember that the actual listeners didn't, and don't, hear it that way: they hear it as a local variant of cumbia, nothing more. That is, it was a very deliberate identification with (tropical) pan-Latin (working-class) musical currents instead of any locally available identities, on the part of Lima's poorest sectors. This video, of the kids onstage, looks EXACTLY like a chichodrome: I mean it is one, or it probably becomes one on another night of the week, and this music is catering to exactly the same audience that chicha catered to a generation beforehand.

And what's FURTHER interesting, actually, is looking at that in light of the debate that you link to - look at post number 280, where a woman upbraids Chacalon Jr. for not making music like his father, saying "esa si fue musica," when in fact, until say, ONE YEAR AGO, the general reaction to Chacalon's chicha was pretty similar to the rejection of perreo you see on that list - in class/intellectual (the same thing in Peru) terms that is: the erotic element wasn't there in chicha's dismissal, but the overtones of moral panic were (linked to generic gang violence and hoodlumism instead).

Only other thing I can really think to say is that I'm pretty sure this came from a DVD being sold on the street in Peru - they all start with that same film-reel thing.

muy interesante, no? (not to mention generous, joshua, thx again.) after señor tucker asked if i had any additional, more specific questions, i shot him the following:
I do have one specific question. Not knowing much about chicha, I wonder if you could point me to the particular features of "Perreo Chacalonero" that signify chicha. Is it a pretty typical example? Save for the vocals? I'm assuming that the "perreo" thing comes from reggaeton, but there's little about the track that points to reggaeton other than those references. Is there anything particularly atypical about the musical backing?

to which, he graciously replied:
...the sound of a wah-wah guitar like that, especially with the light, nominally "tropical" percussion underneath, in a Peruvian context instantly signifies "chicha" to the (this) listener. Chicha was a local version of cumbia, made by and for Lima's expanding "popular" sector (in the Latin American sense of the word - working-class), almost 100% composed of Andean migrants, beginning in the late sixties, becoming stylistically consolidated through the seventies, and dominating the Peruvian "popular" music scene in the eighties. It basically took some key elements of pan-Latin cumbia as it existed at that time - light "tropical" percussion, the basic eighth-and-two-sixteenths rhythmic pattern - and substituted electric guitars, later keyboards as well, for the melodic instruments typical of cumbia. According to most academic analyses, performers also took some of the elements of Andean melodies, and it's true that they occasionally arranged (folk-pop) huaynos, and also that many chicha melodies use the same waffling between relative major/minor modes that's used in huayno music. However, it was perceived, like I say, more as a link to an international, pan-Latin musical stream, a local variant of cumbia, than anything else. And it was reviled by Peruvian elites: today, the word "chicha" has expanded to be somewhat equivalent to the English term "white trash," it denotes everything
esthetically and socially unacceptable about the lowbrow masses among the plebe, from the perspective of Peru's (self-)perceived economic/intellectual creme.

Oh, performers also adopted the stage presence, coordinated moves, and outlandish matching costumes of cumbia stars:
http://www.tropiweb.4t.com/shapis.jpg

You can see and hear the greatest of chicha bands, Los Shapis, looking older and more rotund than in their heyday but sounding exactly the same, here - and check it out, before the clip begins, you get a little promo for the production company with a number of musical figures and the words "supporting what's ours," and that your guy, Chacalon Jr appears there alongside Los Shapis:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOGMl10OECg

So, in that example, you hear the classic chicha guitar sound, and the classic percussion: clean and stripped-down, respectively (btw, as with Mexican cumbia et al, salseros and other aficionados of esthetically/politically "engaged" musica tropical loathe this stuff for its simplicity/childishness, depending on how you perceive it). Later bands did use a wah-wah kind of sound, but I think it might also have become more prominent in chicha's nineties-era reincarnation, as tecnocumbia. Tecno- here has nothing to do with Detroit: in Peru, it's appended to any musical tradition that's traded acoustic for electric instrumentation, especially if it uses a drum machine to replicate "tropical" percussion (hence, tecno-huayno and tecno-huaylas). Tecnocumbia came around in the mid-nineties, and like Raul Romero notes in his article in the collection From tejano to tango, it was kind of extraordinary to the extent that it bridged the gap between what had been fairly strictly demarcated ethnic/racal listening communities. That is, for a while: up until about 2001, it was listened to by people of all kinds in Peru, at all places on the race/class spectrum: however, between the time that I lived Ayacucho from June-August of 2000, and when I returned in August of 2001, it had pretty much faded back to radio aimed at the "popular" sector.

But what's funny is, tecnocumbia was just repackaged/re-marketed chicha! Like Raul says in that article, it was basically chicha that had been de-Andeanized, had the key signifiers of Andean migrant-ness removed from it. The music was presented as being from the Amazon (a place just recently developing in the Peruvian consciousness as a peopled part of the nation), or alternatively the north coast, and many tecnocumbia bands were simply chicha groups that had traded in their (highly chicha-connotative) electric guitars for keyboards (I think that's a direct quote from Raul).

This didn't fool everybody, and a lot of people just kept calling it all chicha. Also, I should note that some people will almost certainly insist that some of these bands that converted into tecnocumbia groups were never "chicha" groups, but rather "cumbia norteña" groups, such as Agua Marina. Again, whatever interest people on the north coast might have in dissociating themselves from the "chicha" label, the music was pretty much the same stuff - you tell me:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLOAgHFLxtM

Anyway, this is based on half-remembered impressions, but it seems to me that many tecnocumbia bands have made more liberal use of the wah-wah sound than happened in chicha per se: but the line bleeds pretty thin here.

I'm glad you also find nothing here that points to reggaeton - I couldn't see it either, but I figured you're the expert as far as that goes! About what's atypical - I've never seen this approach in any Peruvian music, to have one repeated musical figure (sample?), over which the (frankly, lazy) vocalist does nothing but exhort the dancers/listeners and repeat the name of the song. Both of those things - the (highly "performed") laziness of the vocalist (DJ?) and the repetition of the actual track title - are what made me think of "Mesa que mas aplauda." Oh, and the sex. I just can't believe it's coincidental: it's true that Peruvian tecno- bands (of whatever ilk) always have "animadores," guys who encourage the audience to dance and drink and such, but they're always supporting a vocalist that actually sings.

Anyway, I hope that's interesting/helpful to you as well - feel free to put any of it up, noting the caveat that I don't know anything about this track and am out on a limb a bit...

i can't say that i have much to add to joshua's thoughtful, thorough comments. i suppose the features he identifies at the end -- heavy repetition, a DJ exhorting dancers, explicit sexual content (and called "perreo" at that) -- are the most likely to have been borrowed from or inspired by reggaeton (if not reggae -- weh yuh seh, fire links?). i've been wondering about reggaeton in peru for a minute now, both b/c i'm curious about the genre's spread beyond the caribbean and the US and b/c afro-peruvian singer susana baca (who sells her music digitally via calabash, btw) is here in chicago this week. one thing i happened upon not long ago which confirmed, if somewhat implicitly, the popularity of reggaeton in peru is this piece, in which daddy yankee endorses music piracy and we're told that his hotel in lima is mobbed by fans.

but how clearly can we connect the "perreo chacalonero" to reggaeton? i'm not sure. little if any of the discourse i've seen on any of these video comments, message boards, etc., seem to figure reggaeton in the debate. instead people focus on the (im)morality of the dance, the "lowness" of such cultural practices, and the attendant inferiority of this or that national or social or cultural group. considering how reggaeton animates similar debates in PR, DR, cuba, and the US, it's interesting that it hasn't been more implicated -- as a corrupting outside agent, sin duda -- in all the chatter 'bout the chacalonero.

5 Comments:

Blogger Vamanos said...

Great post. I heard some of that stuff in Bolivia too. I remember the vocals often sound like freestyle MCing over the top. V repetetive and popular with bus drivers !

3:34 AM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

bonus!! apparently, accding to this, chicha is a fusion of cumbia and an andean genre called -- and this tickles me, of course -- wayno!

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where can i see chicha in lima? is there a particular part of town that is more culturally chicha or where random performances take place?

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Sebastian said...

hey wayne, we met a WHILE ago in boston in one of Dj C Fiestas..anyway...
are you familiar with this hypnotic sh*t:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dl-M0SfzIys&feature=related

brutal!

in the jungle, chicha in more trance oriented....specially with their crazy drinks

1:24 PM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

thx for this sebastian!

good to hear from you again.

4:00 PM  

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